QMH Script, July 2007
Transgender Music Special, Part 3
Billings - Transgender Hotline (2007)
Welcome to Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and this month I'm bringing you Part 3 of my latest series on the music of Transgender Artists, and it will include some special interviews. Starting the show was a fun cellphone ringtone courtesy of the folks at Medialicious.tv. They've got lots of fun podcasts to amuse you and a bunch of special ringtones. That one was done by Alexandra Billings, who was my feature interview for last month's show. After the ringtone was Canadian artist Meryn Cadell. The song "Jonny and Betty" came from her 1993 album "Bombazine." While the subject matter of that song was gay, Meryn is featured on this show because as of 2003 she became a he. Meryn retired from the music business following the last CD, released in 1997. I want to add that Meryn had a Canadian Top 40 Hit in 1991 with a song called "The Sweater." I encourage you to visit YouTube.com to check out the quirky video for that song. Oh, but please wait till after this show, as I wouldn't want you to miss my two special interviews with the duo Coyote Grace and Joshua Klipp.
But first, my regular listeners know how I love to dig into our history and share musical obscurities. And this one is surely obscure. In 1978 a kind of dance oriented album was released in Los Angeles titled "The Jupiter Rey Band, with Lilly Rose." Lilly Rose was a stage name for Lillian Taber, though that was not her original name, but the one she took after her transition. Information is sketchy on her but I understand she lived in the Denver area and was in several other bands, and for a time was a member of the Angels of Light, an offshoot of the Cockettes. One of my website visitors who knew her has told me that her looks were stunning and she was also an amazing make-up artist, costume designer, and hair stylist. Sadly she died in 2000 at age 48. From the Jupiter Rey Band album, from 1978, is the song "Dance With Me."
Jupiter Rey Band, with Lilly Rose - Dance With Me (1978)
Coyote Grace Interview
On to the first interview of the show, with Coyote Grace. This is a duo made up of Coyote Joe Stevens and Ingrid Eyen, whose nickname is Grace. Partners on and off stage, they are respectively from California and Ohio but now work out of the Seattle area. According to the verbiage on their website their love of music and for each other permeates every song, conveyed through smooth harmonies, driving roots rhythms, and captivating lyrics of raw life experience. Well, I can't disagree with that. They released their debut album, called "Boxes & Bags" a few months ago and I am very pleased with it, as I immediately fell in love with Joe's voice. And you'll see why right now.
Coyote Grace - It's So Bright (2006)
The first question I asked Coyote Joe was to tell me about the new album.
It's called "Boxes & Bags." And it's our first, debut studio album. We recorded it in Seattle last year. It's all original material by Joe Stevens. It sounds a lot like us live, it's very indy-folk, alt-folk we call it. The title came about basically because we travel a lot and everything we own fits in either a box or a bag, so that's kind of how we live and it's very telling of our troubadour lifestyle. We hope you like it.
Tell me about the name Coyote Grace.
Coyote Grace actually came about it was a fusion of our two old stage names, hers being Amazing Grace and mine being Coyote Joe.
On your website you are open about being a transman. Was being this open a difficult decision for you?
We definitely did talk about it a lot, you know, on the one hand I want to be seen as a musician. On the other hand I want to have visibility for trans people cause that's something that's new. So I figured if we just kind of got it out there in the open then we wouldn't have to be throwing it in anyone's face or anything. We're just trying to be open and out.
Tell me about the song "A Guy Named Joe"
I wrote that, oh, a little less than a year ago. It's kind of a mourning song, in a way. I was really in the thick of my transition and it was kind of about the strange feeling of going through this whole huge emotional process and then kind of on the other end of it you're just a normal guy, and you have to relearn how to integrate into the world. So it's kind of a kind of a mourning period for me.
Coyote Grace - A Guy Named Joe (2006)
How old were you when you figured out that you wanted to be a man?
Well, I knew when I was four, but it took me until I graduated from college to see that I really needed to this in order to carry on with my life, so it was always it was definitely always there but it took me a little while to figure out that I needed that I really needed to follow through with transition.
Joe, if this is an appropriate question, Could you talk about what medically you've done to transition?
I've been on hormones for going on three years now and today actually is the second year anniversary of my top surgery, chest reconstruction, April 27th, that's about all I can afford at this point.
Did the transition process change your voice?
It did. It's dropped it about an octave, and I had written quite a few songs before then and had to kind of change them around quite a bit. It changed my style a little bit but not very much. I was always writing songs that were too low for me before which is strange, it's kind of telling. There's couple songs on the album that I wrote as a soprano, now I'm a baritone. I had to stop singing for a good eight months, which was kind of rough.
Have you found that there are some people who can't get past the novelty, to them, that you are a transman, when they should be focused on your talent?
Ah, sometimes. We play for a lot of GLBT folks now anyway, and they're pretty cool about it. Yeah, sometimes after a show all they want to know about is what parts I have, which is kind of annoying, but by far most people most people forget, which I think is interesting, cause I look so male to them, I think.
And I don't mean to neglect Ingrid, the Grace part of the duo. What challenges have you had performing with this act?
Well, I think that mainly I performed with a couple of different ensembles since I started playing the upright bass and Joe and I had got together and played very casually before he transitioned, and we were a couple then. And then it wasn't until he kind of got through the first year or so of transition, got his voice settled, was kind of ready to start making moves to being in a band, that he was really ready to kind of invest musically. So during that I was playing with another band, a bluegrass band called Captain Gravel, out of Seattle with four other guys, and so when time came when Coyote Grace started becoming more the priority in my life and we were getting ready to travel and leave Seattle, it was challenging for me to leave that other band and to leave behind the music scene that I had become involved in. So that's been hard and another thing is I do most of the booking and promotional work for Coyote Grace and you know it's hard to know how much to put it out there in our promotional material that we're queer, that he's a trans singer/songwriter. We kind of us play it by ear and for the ones who are obviously more GLBTQ oriented we make sure that they know that that's why we're applying. Otherwise we just sort of leave that for people to read between the lines or absorb what they absorb. But basically we're just out there being ourselves and playing our music and if people pick up on it, great, and if don't, whatever, they'll take away something from it.
Back to Joe, what challenges have you had performing as an openly trans artist?
Well, I suppose venue choices are always interesting. We get a lot of queer gigs because we get them, and we don't necessarily want to be pigeonholed as queer artists but that is the community that has shown up for us and supported us. I think mainly the reclassification as a male singer/songwriter, as opposed to being a female singer/songwriter has just basically put me in a whole new category, with different contemporaries and different peers, and I think that's been the roughest thing for me. I used to see myself right up there with the Indigo Girls and now I'm in there with a whole new group of people and I just have to sort of relearn how to socialize, I think.
Is there a song on the album that particularly tells your story?
I think "Ghost Boy" that's also a little bit of a grieving song, but it's just kind of how I feel now having lived this other life that is somewhat invisible to a lot of people. I love my life and I love who I am, but there's that recognition of what's past, in a good way.
Coyote Grace - Ghost Boy (2006)
Again, the CD "Boxes & Bags" is a wonderful album. You can find out more about Coyote Grace at www.CoyoteGrace.com
Jenifer Rene Pool QMH ID
That was my friend and Queer Voices co-host Jenifer Rene Pool. By the way she's the first transgender President of a GLBT Political Caucus in the country, and we're real proud of her.
I mentioned that Jenifer is one of my co-hosts on Queer Voices. On that show recently we interviewed another talented transgender artist from San Francisco, Julia Serano. She seems to be a renaissance woman, as she's a writer, spoken-word performance artist, activist and in her day job, a biologist. She's just published a new book, called "Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity." I first discovered her because in the late 90s she was in a pop trio called Bitesize, and they released two albums. I love that while this was still pre-transistion she was talking about it in the lyrics of the songs. An example of this comes from their first album, from 1999, which was titled, with tongue in cheek, "The Best of Bitesize." Here's "Switch Hitter."
Bitesize - Switch Hitter (1999)
Yes, she'll have her sex-change operation, her mind's made up. According to her website that song was actually inspired by her memories from when she was 15, watching her Little League all-star game, when she made the decision. Of course it took many years for the transition to happen, and being the writer that she is, she's captured a lot of that journey by publishing essays and books of her spoken-word pieces. One of these books is perfect for me to share with you, as with it she included a CD. I particularly like the interesting psychology revealed in the title track from that book, "Either/Or."
Julia Serano - Either/Or (2002)
Again, that was Julia Serano, from her spoken-word CD "Either/Or." Her website is an education and a fascinating visit. That's at www.JuliaSerano.com.
Joshua Klipp QMH ID
And this is a good time to invite you to check out my website. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the playlist and follow along, while looking at photos of the artists and recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. Again, that's at www.queermusicheritage.com, Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Friday night/Saturday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.
Joshua Klipp Interview
Up next is the main interview for this month, by another new artist, Joshua Klipp, and I'm very pleased with this one. I found his answers interesting, articulate and done with style and humor, someone I'd like to know. So far he's released an EP last year called "Patience" and his full-length debut album "Won't Stop Now" came out this Spring. Before we start the interview, here's just a bit of one of the songs, called "Time We Don't Have to Waste."
Joshua Klipp - Time We Don't Have to Waste (2007)
Tell me about the new CD
This new album is called "Won't Stop Now" and it's called that because I literally had to risk everything to get here and now that I am I'm only getting started. And about three years ago I started gender transition knowing that it might result in never being able to sing again, but I had to take that risk because it was really my only shot at finding peace and here I am three years later and I've released my first complete post-transition album, and the music on the album crosses genres and boundaries, just like I live my life but throughout it there's a message of hopefulness and taking risks to find your own peace. And every time someone says to me, "Josh, your music has changed my life," I know I've done my job in this world as an artist, and it's a privilege to move people with my music.
Your EP was called "Patience" and your album is "Won't Stop Now." What's the significance of those titles?
Yeah, the EP was called "Patience" because that's what it took for me to get to that place where I could even start recording again. When I was contemplating gender transition I learned that one of the things that would happen naturally was that my voice was going to drop. And I did a lot of research on what that would mean, for me vocally as a singer, and there wasn't anything out there. There was no information on how it would turn out on the other side, and ultimately I had to make a very heart-wrenching decision to transition, knowing that it could mean that I wouldn't ever be able to sing again. But I had to let that go. I had to literally let go of my ability to sing to find my own peace in my life, to be willing to know that that might not be there when I got through all of this.
And of course not being one to just let things go, completely, I took voice lessons and I visited with a voice specialist at Stanford, who actually followed me through the process and is going to publish the first article on something like this. And after a year and a half I finally got back into the studio and it seemed to me that the only thing I could call my first EP was "Patience," because that's what it took with myself and with my voice just going through that process, that very slow painful letting go process of the voice that I used to have.
And the title of the new one?
The title of the new one is "Won't Stop Now" because now that I'm here, it's on, I'm going for it. You know, I've always loved to sing. Singing has always been my expression, but I couldn't really get behind it pre-transition because it didn't feel because it didn't feel like it really expressed me as a human being. It was a good way to express emotion, but it wasn't true to who I was.
Did it feel like your voice didn't match yourself?
Exactly, Exactly. There was always this moment there were always these moments at the beginning of a gig. We'd be setting up. I'd be sound-checking, my musicians would be setting up, if I was working with a live band. People would be kind of gathering around, if it was in a bar, you know, getting their drinks or whatever or their conversations. And there was always that moment when I opened my mouth to sing that first song, everybody in the place would turn around and look at me like "where was that voice coming from?" Because it was so completely different from, you know, my physical presentation as very masculine. My voice was very feminine, so it didn't match up at all. And like I was saying before, I couldn't get behind it. I couldn't get behind myself as an artist completely. And now, even though I still work hard on my voice. I'm still working hard on my voice. I'm still getting better, getting stronger, getting more flexible, I'm just so thrilled about being able to sing at all, and being able to put myself out there in the world as a vocalist.
I guess this would be a great time to ask about the significance of the song "Little Girl"
"Little Girl" the historical significance of it is that it's the first time that a transman, and that would be me, has recorded a song using both pre- and post-transition vocals. And the way that that happened, I've had the privilege of working with the same writer, producer, for about six, seven years now, Christopher Cloud, and we used to write and record music back in the day, and we had recorded "Little Girl" years ago, and then I went through gender transition, and afterwards, when we were thinking about new music, I said, maybe we should look at some of those old tracks, maybe there's something I can make out of that, and do like a duet with myself, and we pulled out the "Little Girl" track. And I listened to it, and got rid of the verses. I rewrote the verses, kept the hook, and the result is what's on my album. And the verses I rewrote, they're really it's a really personal song in a lot of ways on a lot of levels, and the verses I wrote really about my own experiences and the experiences of a lot of other transpeople around transition, sort of hitting that rock-bottom place where I've got to make a change, I've got to do something here.
And moving through self-affirmation, you know, finding looking in the mirror and especially I think for transwomen, they have such a hard time when they look in the mirror and what they see doesn't match how they feel, and what they put out the ways that they are perceived in the world doesn't match how they feel. And transmen I think feel that a lot, too. But finding self-affirmation regardless the way that I reflect that in the lyrics, there's no mirror that reflects your worth, so no matter what you see in the mirror, it doesn't stand for what you're worth as a human being.
And finally the song just ends on a very hopeful, positive note, closing your eyes and dreaming of this new world, whatever that is for you. What's interesting is that in writing the song, and recording it, and playing it for friends and loved ones, the first thing they would say to me is it doesn't even matter if this is about transition. This is just about a human experience of going through something really difficult. But in the process of recording it, it was a very cathartic process for me, because it sort of culminated that letting go that I referred to earlier, and singing alongside that voice that used to be mine, and letting that go. Just sort of literally telling that old voice, "don't worry, it's going to be okay," in a way that I wish I could have told myself when I didn't know what was going to happen.
Joshua Klipp - Little Girl (2006)
How would you compare performing and creating your music before and after your transition?
I would say that now everything just seems to fit better. Everything just seems to feel more comfortable. I would write a song, pre-transition, and sing it and perform it and it felt too well, it felt to girly. It didn't feel right. And now everything, it just makes a lot more sense. It fits. What I'm saying it fits where I'm coming from and the voice fits and it feels a lot more cohesive, integrated.
I've read that you came out of the closet twice, first as a lesbian.
Well, I think that's exactly right, I think a lot of people, transpeople have that experience. It's sort of a it's certainly easier in a physical sense anyway to come out as gay, than to come out as trans, and that was just my way of trying to cope, trying to make sense of my feelings and what I needed out of my life. And it worked for a while. But ultimately that wasn't, that wasn't a perfect fit and so that's when transitioning happened, and coming out as trans.
What has been your experience regarding obtaining male privilege?
It exists. It exists. My experience of it I'll tell you, JD, it is mind-blowing. Guys don't even know it exists, and woman, never having experienced it, don't even know what they're missing out on. It's just a way the things that people assume about you. They listen to you more. People smile at you more. People take you more seriously. You know, there's just a certain level of respect that you're given. It's I can't even necessarily put my finger on it, but it's really, it's astounding, and it exists, and it's kind of mind-blowing
Transmen are probably the only people who can realize this.
Yeah, I think that that's probably true, and you know, in addition to male privilege, speaking our community, the gay and lesbian community, a lot of us also get heterosexual privilege. I know that my girlfriend an I experience that all the time. When we were seeing each other pre-transition, the way that people treated us nobody was outright homophobic, or outright disrespectful, but there are a lot of subtle differences between the ways that people treated us then and the ways they treat us now, perceiving us as a heterosexual couple
Wow, heterosexual privilege. I've not heard it said that way. So, y'all are more accepted now as a couple.
Without a doubt, and the example that she gives, if you would ask her, is especially when we're traveling. We'd stop at a B&B or you know or some breakfast place or something, and people just engage you more in conversation and they smile at your more, with "aren't you cute," and "what are you two doing this weekend" and that sort of thing. And nobody would be, if we were in that same position four years ago before I transitioned, people wouldn't look at us with disgust and treat us in openly-discriminatory ways, but they wouldn't engage us as much, you know, they wouldn't be sort of as affirming of your relationship by engaging you.
Do you know a lot of other transmen?
As I go along I find that I seem to pick up trans guy friends, which is you know, I don't actively seek out transmen as friends, but we sort of gravitate towards each other I find as we are really the only people who can truly understand each other's experiences, and so when I hang out with my trans guy friends it's like a small vacation, I find I can say anything about any experience and they'll know exactly what I'm talking about.
I'm curious then about your observations and I'm going to deliberately use the term sexual attraction instead of sexual orientation. Could you make any comments about the sexual attraction of transmen. What I mean is, from your observations do you think more are attracted to men or women?
That's a real interesting question, and you're probably the first person whose ever asked me that. I think that probably the majority of transmen before they transition start out as lesbians, I think. And I'm generalizing a little bit here. And as trans guys go through transition they my observation is that a lot of guys, you know, they feel freer to check out being with men or being with women, or whatever. And I think that I don't know that I can exactly put my finger on it, I think part of it is just hormonal they have all this testosterone they need to work it out and let's face it, at least here in the Bay Area there's plenty of men to work it out with.
But I think part of it is also an emotional thing, because as transmen are recognized more and more as men, they can kind of let go of all that baggage that we carry around as being perceived as women and engaging with a man as a woman. If you engage as a man with a man you're sort of on equal footing, if that makes sense. Does that answer your question?
In a way, do you know any transmen that are coupled with men?
I know transmen who have dated men as for any that are permanently coupled, I know they are out there, but I don't know them personally.
I've heard one theory that more transmen end up with women because what gay would be satisfied with someone who wasn't a man originally.
No, I think they're a lot of gay who are actually really into it, at least judging from how much I get hit on
Okay well, you are pretty cute .back to the interview. Which song on the CD seems to be the, I don't know, audience favorite?
Well, hands down that's "Little Girl," you know, and if you go on iTunes and you look at my songlist, it's like, that's the top song, everybody likes that song. But actually a song that a lot of people like also, is "My Funny Valentine," which is one of the two jazz tracks that are at the end of the album. The two jazz tracks almost didn't make it on the album. They were basically an afterthought. We'd recorded all of the sort of R&B poppy dance stuff and then a couple weeks before we were going into the final production stage Christopher said, "what about throwing a couple jazz tracks on there?" My first reaction was, "What? How does that work?" But I thought about it a little more, and I really got into the idea, because that's the kind of music I love doing that kind of music. I grew up on that kind of stuff.
It just so happened
that my old band. We broke up, not because we didn't like each other,
but because everybody moved to different parts of the country. My whole
band happened to be in town, all in the same weekend, just a perfect
alignment of the stars. And we rented out a studio for one night, from
about 11:00 at night until 2:00 in the morning and we recorded "Summertime"
and "My Funny Valentine." And "Summertime," which
is a song usually performed by female vocalists is a song that I did
with that band before I transitioned, and what's funny about it is that
now I sing it exactly an octave lower, and so that song kind of represented
the old. And "My Funny Valentine" is the song that I style
after my male idol, who is Chet Baker, and so that kind of represents
the new. People really dig "My Funny Valentine."
How has your music evolved over the years?
Well, you know, it's kind of a tough question. Most artists have the benefit of having the same voice their entire life, and so they kind of have they can follow their progression. I feel like had one voice, and there's this wall, where that voice stops, and this new voice starts and so it's really hard for me to say how it's progressed because I've literally been singing with two different voices. This voice is very new to me.
What have you learned about life from doing this album?
That is a good question, JD. Let me think about that. What have I learned about life from doing this album? I'd have to say that if I learned anything .this is going to sound hokey, but it's true, that truly anything is possible, and what I mean by that is, for instance, I look at "Little Girl" and I hear my old voice and I hear my new voice. If I can do that, what can't be done. And if I could go through everything that I had to go through to get here, and I'm here, nothing seems impossible. And I hope that people hear that when they listen to the album. Sounds like that maybe that's a pretty hefty goal, a loft goal for what most people consider a pop, but it's true. It's true. I do believe that the album and the music on it not only changed my life, but it changed the lives of people that listen to it. I get emails from people around the world. And it doesn't matter, trans, not trans, straight, gay, male, female, it doesn't matter. People hear it and are truly moved by it, and that's just such a privilege and such an honor.
Tell me about the guest artists on your CD.
There are a number of amazing guest artists on my CD and what I want to point out about them, before I go on to talking about who they are, is that Christopher, my co-writer and I, made a very specific effort to include, to use, LGBT artists in the making of this album. Of course there's Christopher and myself, Christopher who's gay and me being trans. And then there's artists like Katastrophe, who is a trans rapper, transman rapper, and Hollywood, who is a gay artist as well. And then who's not listed on the album, much to my chagrin I must have been very tired when I was proofreading the text of the album but my brother and my dad, who are both openly gay, do backups on "Tell Me The...," one of the tracks on the album. So those are your guest artists and I'm really drawing from our community. Oh, and then the "Rescue Me (remix)" was also done by a transman.
Tell me about appearing on the Tyra Banks Show.
That was a trip. They contacted me because they were interested in having my girlfriend and I come on the show and talk about being in a relationship with a transperson. And, you know, I said, sure, I'm happy to do that, but only if I can talk about music, too you know, ever the opportunist that we artists have to be. It's what you've got to do, just pimping yourself out.
How did it go over?
Really well. Really well. My girlfriend and I went on the show and we did end up talking about our relationship. You know, Tyra, her questions I thought were okay, and it was great. They played a couple of clips of "Little Girl" on the show, so I feel really fortunate for having had that experience and of course now I have a little press quote from her, so that is just outstanding.
What's funny about "The Tyra Banks Show," the producers, they do all these pre-interviews and that's basically when I set my boundaries and said what would and wouldn't talk about. And you know, like they asked me my old name. I'm not going to tell them that. It's none of your business. And they asked me about surgery, specifically about lower surgery, and I said, "I'm not going to tell you that either, it's none of your business." And the producers said, "okay, okay." They were actually pretty good about it. They said, "we're just warning you, Tyra might ask you." "Okay, she can ask."
And she did. And my answer to her was "you know, a lot of guys like to talk about what's in their pants, and I'm just not one of them." That is not on the show, they cut it. And I'm so bummed they cut it, because yeah, I feel like transpeople watching the show deserve to know that they don't have to answer that stuff. Yeah, they cut it, they cut it and it's a drag because the two interviews before me were with transwomen and their partners, and it was just augh, surgeries and how do you do it? It was gross, and I just I really wish that after all of that there'd been at least one example of somebody standing up and saying, "you know what? You don't need to know that. That's not your business. And to do it with some class, but apparently I gave Tyra too much of a smack-down, they edited it out.
And I understand your music has been on "The L-Word"?
Yeah, again, "Little Girl" was on "The L-Word." It was on last season, season 4, episode 408 for anyone who is an avid follower of "The L-Word." And it was during a sloppy-drunk love scene, which you know, when you're going through the process of getting your song on the show, they send you a licensing agreement, and they actually describe for you in the agreement what is happening on the show when your song plays. And so I'm reading this scene, and I'm thinking, "oh, what a drag. This song I'm so proud of and poured my heart into, it's going to be playing while two people are hooking up, sloppy drunk." But you know the more I thought about it, I realized, "wait, wait, wait, that's perfect. Everybody will be paying attention to what's happening on the screen." So it wasn't some horrible, you know, background scene in a café, where there's a bunch of din. Above the din perhaps you could hear my melodious strains you can actually hear it because they're hooking up and one of the characters picked up a remote and turns on the stereo and my song came on. Pretty cool.
I like your video of "Rescue Me". Can you tell me about that song?
Yeah, "Rescue Me" is Christopher and I consider that kind of the single. We're really excited about that song. It's definitely got more of a rocky, rocky R&B dance feel to it. And it features Hollywood rapping on it, and we did the music video with Margaret Cho, which is really exciting to get a chance to meet her and work with her. And through a friend of a friend she asked me if I would want to do one with her. Of course my answer was, let me think about that. Yes! And so yeah, we had that opportunity to do it and it was awesome.
Joshua Klipp - Rescue Me (2007)
The video kind of in a way sets up my next question. I understand that many transpeople go stealth after they transistion. From seeing your photos and video you look totally male and therefore could easily pass, did you struggle with whether you would be "out" as a transperson?
Oh, absolutely, absolutely. After my EP "Patience" came out last August there was a local paper that wanted to do a well, they did a big article on the song. And I remember feeling just as an artist, really excited that I was getting press, and my photo was going to be in the paper, and it was this big, long article. And then the morning that the paper came out I was standing there in my kitchen and I suddenly felt really down. I suddenly felt like, oh, great, now the world knows, now I'm out there, Josh is trans. Anybody that didn't know is gonna know now. And I started getting kind of down about it, and feeling really like, great, nobody's going to accept me now just as a man. Now there's going to be this thing. And the more that I thought about it though, I realized that ever since I can remember all I've ever wanted to be was a singer. All I've ever wanted to do was be out there and be a rock star, as it were.
And you know what, it may not be perfect. It certainly is not what I pictured in my head when I was four years old, but I'm doing the best I can with what I have. I'm doing it, and a song putting it out there, a song like "Little Girl." I know that I outed myself to the world. I knew what kind of press that that was going to generate, and what people were going to write about that. But every time I get an email from some kid, or some transman across the country, that says, "Your song helped me today. Your song changed me. Your song made me feel hopeful." You know what, forget my crap about needing to about wanting to stay in the closet or something like that, forget it. That's more important. What I'm doing with it is more important than staying closeted with it. I would much rather just live my life openly and honestly than strain to stay in the closet.
Do you think of yourself as an activist?
That's a great question. I often say to people, I'm really not an activist, I'm just an artist. But my art has sort of turned into activism and I think it's opened a lot of people's eyes in a way that I never intended, but I'm glad that it did. This is my calling. This is the way that I change the world, is by doing something like this.
It sounds like you may have moments where enough of this trans stuff, what about my music?
Yeah, and that is that is exactly right. I've talked to a number of publicists about that, trying to get a handle on that cause to me the order is: artist, then transperson. And a lot of people would want to flip that, I think, and put the emphasis on being trans as opposed to being a musician. And you know, there's no simple solution to that. But I do feel very good however knowing that what I'm putting out into the world, it's just good music. I'm not putting bad music out there and hoping everyone listens to it because I'm trans
I hadn't written this down, but any feel for what percent of transgender people go stealth. I mean, could that even be measured?
Yeah, I think it's impossible to measure and the only way you could measure something like that is that if everybody knew everybody's medical record.
If you could measure it they wouldn't be stealth.
Right, right. I mean I certainly know that percentage, whatever it is, is much higher among transmen than among transwomen, because they just have so much it's a much harder road for them. I think there's a lot of trans guys. We can kind of spot each other from time to time, but not a lot of people spot us.
My impression is transmen pass easier than transwomen.
Definitely, definitely. For the most part we're just a little shorter, and have smaller hands. But other than that you're right, because transwomen a lot of transwomen, by the time they transition they've got fuller facial structure, and bigger hands and bigger feet, and taller, and that's the kind of a thing you can't change. Transmen, when we transition, our voices drop, we develop facial hair, and get more musculature, and transwomen, they just don't pass as easily. Definitely, definitely it's an easier process for transmen than for transwomen.
How did you come up with the name of your website?
Cute Little White Guy? Cause that's what I am. I wanted something that felt honest. I couldn't be a poser. I couldn't come up with something that sounded sexier than me and I couldn't come up with something that sounded I needed to be able to live up to it, let's put it that way. This I can live up to.
Well, I think that I read, or I read between the lines on your site that you didn't want to use your name because you want the site to represent more than just your music, because you are also interested in other things.
You have done your homework. That's right. It's not just me, but I like to work with a lot of other artists as well. Especially in the Bay Area I work with a lot of dancers. I've worked with a lot of dance companies, the Sarah Bush Dance Project, the Zari Leon Dance Theatre, and then I've got my own dance company, Freeplay Dance Crew, which is a hip hop company. And I like to work with basically helping other artists develop their own marketing strategies. You know they look at me, and I've managed to do something, I've managed to get a good amount of press, and so what I do I share what I've learned with other artists. How to create marketing strategies, to come up with business plans, and really focus what it is they're working on so that they can hopefully achieve some success with that.
As you heard, you can find out more about Josh at his site, http://joshuaklipp.com/
I'm down to the last song, but before I get to it I want to thank you all for listening, and I want to especially thank Coyote Grace and Joshua Klipp for the wonderful interviews. And there was so much from Josh's interview that I could just not fit in the radio version of this show, so my internet listeners can hear an extended version with a lot more comments and additional music. That of course can be found at www.queermusicheritage.com. And, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. I hope you'll stop by next month for Part 4 of my series on Transgender Artists. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston.
I had one more question for Josh. Tell me about the song "L1fe"
I really started writing it as I was at a memorial service for this wonderful transwoman that I had the privilege of working with in the Transcendence Gospel Choir. And I was sitting in this memorial service, and I didn't really have an opportunity to get to know her that well, but I was listening to all of the people talk about her, and here was this transwoman who had struggled through drugs, prostitution, HIV, all of these really horrible things in her life, and yet everything I knew about her was just beautiful. From her smile to the things that she chose to do with her life, like being on panels, and going to talk with medical students about women with HIV. And she took a situation in her life that was so difficult and so complicated and so hard, and managed to make something so beautiful. And that's when I started writing that song. It's a real opportunity to take something very difficult and make something really beautiful out of it, which I think is something that our community, the LGBTcommunity does all the time. We take situations where there's a lot of pain and a lot of hurt, and what we choose to do with it is call it Pride and fly Rainbow Flags. And I think it's a wonderful thing. So that's why I wrote that song.
On Josh's CD "Won't Stop Now" are two versions of the song "L1fe," the original version and a remix, and I couldn't decide between them so here's a bit of each. Joshua Klipp and "L1fe."
Joshua Klipp - L1fe (2007, original and remix)